Taking over a cafe or restaurant.


18th October, 2018

So you’ve bought a restaurant or café – now what?

When taking over an existing hospitality business, there’s plenty of work that needs to be done after the sale has been finalised in order to ensure the transition to new ownerships is a successful one.

Promote yourself and your brand

When taking over an existing café or restaurant, it’s a great idea to regularly ensure your face is seen around the venue and even go a step further to let existing customers know who you are, introducing yourself to the regulars personally.

Showing that you are both excited about the take over and that you are present in the business can help instill confidence in existing customers, whilst also encouraging new customers to give your venue a try.

If you know that customers previously had a strong bond with the former owner, it might even be a good idea to have the former owner facilitate some introductions, or even offer a letter of ‘recommendation’ you can display somewhere in the venue, assuring the customers that the venue still holds the same values they have come to appreciate.

On the flip side, if you’re taking over a business that was struggling with a poor reputation, showing your face around the venue, introducing yourself to potential clients and being present will ensure potential customers are aware of the new ownership and could even encourage them to give the venue a second chance.

READ: How to avoid a costly promotional disaster

Address operational issues

Businesses are rarely sold because they’re over performing and running smoothly.  Once you take over a business, it’s essential to dig deeper and really examine what is happening behind the scenes, and start making any necessary plans for change.

Within the first month, it’s a good idea to complete a full audit on the business which includes staff management, internal systems, cash handling and POS, menu creation, kitchen procedures, waste management, etc.

Look at the business with fresh eyes, identifying everything you think needs work.  If you have senior staff or staff who have been with the business for a while, it’s also a great idea to consult with them.

Asking for their feedback not only gives you first-hand knowledge of any system issues, but also makes them feel like they are valued members of the new team and will encourage loyalty to you as the new owner.

READ: 5 golden rules for opening a café

Check the numbers

Although you will have no doubt been given access to the ‘books’ before the sale, the weeks after the sale has completed is when you’re more likely to start seeing the real figures come in.

Regularly check the information being received in your POS systems and cross check supplier invoices to ensure costs are being maintained and you’re not being charged extra because you’re ‘new.’

A well set up cloud accounting system like MYOB allows you to check your results each day and to flag any issues with your staff or accounts team immediately.

By checking the figures regularly, you will also be able to identify any issues with wages.  Check your wages costs against your sales each month and if you notice any losses appearing, it might be that you have to let some stff go in order to keep the books strong.

READ: 6 tips for managing cash flow

Refresh and repair

Although taking over a café or restaurant can be exhausting, one of the most impressive things you can do to show a fresh attitude is giving the venue a refresh internally and externally.

Often business owners make the mistake of coming into a venue and changing the entire décor, which can be a huge expense, and often not one that is warranted.

A simple way to refresh a venue is to do a spring clean.

A full clean of floors, walls and ceilings can really bring a place back to life or if needed, give the venue a new coat of paint.  Painting internally doesn’t cost much, but you’d be surprised how much it can lift a venue overall.

Once you’ve cleaned everything, have a look at the clutter.  Existing businesses tend to accumulate ‘stuff’ and by throwing out old platters, pots, decorations and general tat, you will find the space takes on a new, fresh vibe.

Next, take stock on all tables, chairs and fixtures and note anything that could do with a little bit of handiwork.  Are there broken chairs, chipped crockery, uneven tables or broken display cabinets?  Repairing and refurbishing can often be a lot cheaper than changing an entire venue’s décor!

Although taking over a venue can be daunting and there’s often a lot of work to be done, following a well-planned, strategic approach whilst really embracing the change can help lead the venue in the right direction from day one.